Eleven Wars against Palestinians: How Palestinians are coping with their Elimination
A Lecture by Salman Abu Sitta
SOAS Webinar event 23 February 2021, 5.30 pm UK
With Dr Howayda Al Harithy, PLSC Director at AUB.
Host Dr Dina Matar, SOAS University of London
Thank you, Dr Dina Matar for inviting me. Thanks are due also to Dr Gilbert Achcar. I am not a stranger to SOAS. I have many friends, past and present. I attended and participated in many functions. SOAS is a friendly, warm, civilized and thought-provoking home. It is good to come here again even virtually.
It often comes to my mind how I am ashamed of future generations who will read our history in the 20th
century and wonder how we, in this age, could live with so much injustice, so many war crimes, carried out for so long, without remorse or remedy, with so much deception, so many falsehoods, so many lies. Such lies could have been verified by bringing up easily-found facts, IF and only if, these facts were allowed to be known.
My country Palestine had been stricken by two devastating attacks in the last one thousand years, appropriately described as BARBARIAN for what they have done.
Both came from central western Asia and eastern Europe.
Both caused unbelievable death and destruction.
Both got help from western powers hostile to us.
One was defeated soundly. The other not yet.
The FIRST was the Mongol attack led by Hulagh Khan.
In 1258, they reduced Baghdad to rubble, they destroyed its houses, palaces, mosques.
They killed 200,000 people, possibly more.
They destroyed valuable manuscripts in the House of Wisdom and threw them in the Tigris river, its water became black with ink.
They plundered and looted everything in sight.
They forged alliance against us with Frankish (European) Crusaders.
They were finally defeated at Ain Jalut, near Beisan, Palestine, on 3rd
The SECOND is the Haganah attack led by Ben Gurion in March 1948.
They came roughly from the same area, Al Khazar, north of Black Sea, and Eastern Europe.
They destroyed over 500 towns and villages, including 150,000 houses.
They plundered and looted houses, businesses, banks and public properties.
They committed 156 massacres and atrocities, killed tens of thousands and made millions homeless, until today.
They did not destroy documents but looted them and used them to seize land, properties, banks, schools, hospitals, railways, airports and sea ports.
They forged solid alliances with western powers, particularly UK and USA.
They are not defeated yet but they will be, somewhere in Palestine. It is still with us. It is waging many kinds
of wars against us, not many attacks. These attacks. by land, air and sea, never stopped for 26,626 days.
kind of wars is military, to conquer and seize the land. It is a war we all know about in name but not about its extent and purpose. It is a war in which the Haganah forces, composed of 120,000 soldiers, mostly trained in WWII, organized in 9 brigades, entered a land they have not seen before, carried out 31 military operations in the space of 8 months. In this period, 560 Palestinian cities and villages were attacked and emptied of its people, making refugees of two thirds of the Palestinian people. They are 7 m today. Half of them were expelled before there was something called Israel, before the British left Palestine and before any Arab regular soldier entered Palestine. This is the enduring Nakba.
war, which followed, is silencing the voice of the victims, denying that they ever existed. In 1948, about five dozen major massacres took place. None was reported by the five Western news agencies at the time, except perhaps Deir Yassin, and then only lightly. Reports about the most horrendous massacre of Al Dawayma in October 1948, in which up to 500 people were savagely killed, was called “a figment of Oriental imagination” by the Israeli UN representative, Walter Eitan. Another Israeli settler, Tzipi Hotovely, recently installed as Israel’s ambassador in the UK, called Al Nakba an “Arab lie”. Mention of al Nakba
is outlawed in Israel. It took 4 decades for some courageous historians, like Ilan Pappe, to expose the truth. This truth is still denied in many US universities at the pain of cutting off its funds.
war is geographical. Our Atlas of Palestine 1917- 1966
lists 55,000 names carved by the people about their life and places. The Israeli maps eliminated all of them and replaced them by 6,800 names, created by a committee. In Israeli maps, Palestine does not exist.
war is historical. The historical record of Palestine in the last 2,000 years is obliterated and made blank in Israeli text books, in the Zionist controlled media and removed from controlled websites. It is replaced by the history of settler Jews who arrived in Palestine after WWI. Two thousand years of Palestine history, for which historical edifices are still abound, are totally deleted from record. Not only our history is erased but our living traditions, of dress, food and songs are expropriated and claimed to be that of the invader.
war is archaeological. The destruction of about 500 Palestinian villages in 1948 and 1949, was carried out by bulldozers of the JNF and Public Works. A strange team accompanied them. An Israeli archaeological team supervised the demolition and ordered the destruction of any historical buildings or structures, unless it was found useful for claims of Jewish history. Their work destroyed Byzantine, Arab and Islamic monuments and structures in these villages.
Those wars are converting evil into a virtue.
I am borrowing this idea from a forthcoming book by Saree Makdisi entitled. Tolerance in a Wasteland: Palestine and the Psychogeography of Denial.
Let us imagine this for a minute. How did the Palestinian landscape look like after the destruction of hundreds of villages? A pile of stones where a house once stood. A lone standing wall of a mosque. A cracked bell tower of a church. A marble piece of a grave epitaph.
This evil scene must be hidden. It was covered with trees, woods, forests, planted by non-indigenous trees. This cover up was hailed as a campaign of making the desert bloom. Hardly any leader in the Western world or a city thereof, in which Jewish communities had influence, was not immortalized by a park name or a tree.
And who is doing that?
It was the Jewish National Fund (JNF), which directed the Haganah operations-- to attack villages. JNF seized the land of 372 villages; their people now live in refugee camps. JNF is registered in 41 countries as a tax-free charity
for the improvement
of the environment
George Orwell would fail to beat that.
war is political. Next to the military war, this is the most effective. The US and many Western countries vote against UN resolutions condemning Israel’s crimes and violation of international law. They thwart any legal action against Israel. The actions of the departing Trump is a supreme example of trampling upon international law. Very likely there will be more little Trumps in the West.
(A pleasant surprise: on Friday February 5th
, the ICC admitted the obvious: Israel is liable to be tried for its war crimes. Let us hope it will not be aborted.)
war is religious. God is recruited to win this war. Zionists claim that they have the ‘right’ to return, after a 2,000year absence, to the God-given land, recover their property and expel the “Natives”. The Evangelists, Trump’s main supporters --and the former Restorationists of the 19th
century-- are recruited to support Zionism, with great effect in the United States.
war is defamation. Palestinian fighters and supporters are called “terrorists”. Edward Said was called ‘a professor of terror’. Anyone who explains the facts about Palestine, even among respected scholars or UN officials, is called an anti-Semite, The Zionist- inspired IHRA document is pushed for adoption by UK universities with limited success. It is an open season for defamation of Palestinians.
war is lawfare. Domestic law in some Western countries criminalizes support for the grassroots campaign of boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) and hence any attempt to criticize Israeli war crimes and Apartheid. There is a witch hunt in Germany, against any mention of Israeli crimes against Palestinians, even by Jews like Nirit Sommerfeld.
war is economic. Jewish financial power in the United States, supporting AIPAC activity, is a potent force. Trump cut UNRWA funds. Israel strangles the economic conditions in the West Bank and converts the people into economic hostages. The Israeli-imposed blockade of Gaza for 15 years now, is making life unlivable according to the UN. The aim of course is for the people to demand bread to live instead of the right to live free.
war is the most sinister of all. It may be called Attritional Genocide. The Convention on Genocide includes a clause: a coordinated plan aimed at the destruction of the essential foundations of the life of national groups
. In 2018/19, during the Great Return March in Gaza, Israel injured 35,600 protesters. Of those, 6,750 were hit deliberately by Israeli snipers shattering their knees. Today you can hardly find a street in Gaza without the sight of a youth with an amputated leg. The attacks by poisonous gas in Gaza and the West Bank led to deformity in the new born with increased incidence of down syndrome. Now Israel is denying vaccine to Palestinians in the Occupied Territories. This is not to speak of demolished homes and uprooting trees.
These sinister acts lead to the disability of a whole generation, imposing a huge burden on their families and on the economy. The outcome is a shattered society incapable of living normally, let alone fight for their rights. This is a genocide of the living.
Nothing like this array of wars in colonial history. Of course, there were colonial cases of more savagery, more people killed or driven away, more territory seized. But never before, there was a such a wide ranging scale of different wars, preplanned and executed by well organized troops and groups, conducted not from one metropole but from many Western countries, where centres of power there aided and abetted these wars. All this was not in the age of bow and arrow but in the age of planes, telephones and TV. Not in the age of pirate ships and free scale savagery but in the age of United Nations and Reuters agency. Not in a remote unknown uncharted continent, but in a venerated ancient country, the cradle of Christianity, to which many of these Western countries belong.
Will this venture succeed? It did in part.
Will it continue? Let us observe the facts.
The people of Palestine at the time of the infamous Balfour were 700,000. At the year of Nakba in 1948 they were 1.7 million. Now they are 13 million. In the year 2030 they will be 18 million.
Half of them are still on Palestine soil, living under occupation and Apartheid rule.
85% of the other half are on the borders of Palestine, within walking distance of their homes. The remainder are scattered in no less than 100 cities around the world.
Conclusion: The Palestinian people are here to stay. They will not go away.
Can they return? Could this unique tragedy end?
The international law is solidly behind them. Resolution 194 has been affirmed 135 times, more and longer than any resolution in UN history.
We realize that international law is no more than an expression of good conscience. It can be a tool of the powerful to strike the weak, Nevertheless, it is the conscience of the masses. When they speak they have a powerful voice.
Against international law, Zionism built a sold wall of several layers:
- Occupation. There is a not a single sq km in Israel acquired any time by legal means. Not one. All obtained by collusion, mostly by brute force.
- Apartheid. Now there is no need for Israelis to pretend otherwise. Israel proclaimed the Nation State Law in July 2018. B’Tselem report of Dec 2020 confirmed Apartheid in all of Palestine, whether occupied in 1948, or 1967. Before both of them, UN ESCWA published its report on Apartheid Israel in March 2017 and it got buried.
- Racism. At least 55 laws are applied against Israel’s Palestinian citizens.
- War crimes. Many treaty-based conventions have condemned Israeli war crimes. Now all this is before ICC.
This solid wall, the edifice of occupation, Apartheid, Racism and War crimes, can this wall be breached?
It must be. There can be no peace without it.
Here are some hopeful signs.
The past 100 years witnessed two major world wars, many regional wars and the demise and abolition of racism, Apartheid, Fascism, Nazism, formal communism, the end of colonies in Asia and Africa. They have all vanished--- except in Israel.
We Palestinians moved from a vague appellation of Arab refugees, not related to a country, to our recognition by securing a seat at the UN, recognized by 138 member states
Our young did NOT forget.
Many are in an imposed exile, in dozens of cities in Europe and USA, in a modern diaspora of Palestinians. They are professors, lawyers, scientists, even at NASA, media experts, yes including at CNN, economists, bankers, some extremely successful. They all have the components of a successful Palestine, old country reborn.
Except they are still refugees, denied their Right to Return home.
Now they have a weapon, the weapon of truth, which should be liberating the occupied minds in the West from a long history of misinformation, falsehoods and deception.
This effective weapon does not need tanks, airplanes or millions of lobby dollars.
The soldier in this new world war is the intellectual, that is the person who knows the truth. It is you and me and millions of other people, It is you in this institution. It is us in PLSC.
This is a war to liberate the minds of the uninformed, the cheated, the deceived, the silenced.
The person of knowledge, the intellectual. should he take up his duty or shrink from it?
Edward Said tells us about those who shrink from their duty: I quote:
“Nothing in my view is more reprehensible than those habits of mind in the intellectual that induce avoidance, that characteristic turning away from a difficult and principled position, which you know to be the right one, but which you decide not to take. You do not want to appear too political; you are afraid of seeming controversial; you want to keep a reputation for being balanced”
I guess and I hope there are many who will not shrink from their duty.
They know that the power of knowledge is supreme, lasting, liberating.
Let those who know speak up.
Let the innocent and the pure, cry out: “The Emperor has no clothes”.
Let a map of occupation silence a lying politician.
Let facts about brutality save a child from being shot on his way to school.
Let an image of brutal soldiers save a woman, on her way to hospital, from dying at a check point.
The task is great but doable.
That is where you, we, all of us, in institutions of learning come in.
I have faith, unshakeable faith, that the March of Justice will reach its destination.
In spite of all this overwhelming power against defenseless Palestinian people, it has not succeeded over seven decades to break their will or to demolish their spirit.
Their dispersion in the world carried with each one a candle, shining truth in the darkness about their fate. Yes, candle’s light is small, and the power of darkness is much greater. But let there be many candles everywhere, held by every person of conscience.
They will win. No power can suppress the struggle of the human spirit for freedom.
So, let us all work together so that Palestine people be free.
Watch the full speech here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fvCNVJTmTmM